A COMMUNITY group that grew to be a major Beechworth presence within a year is putting its own sustainable principles into practice.
There's a real insatiable appetite for people to want to connect more with their food.Charlie Showers
The Beechworth Food Co-op held an official opening on Saturday but the day as much celebrated the project’s steady progress so far.
President Jade Miles said the co-op began in a low-key way in January and exceeded expectations by signing up 140 households in its first six months.
About 20 new members also joined up at the open day.
The project aimed to provide easy access to whole food, support and grow district agriculture, minimise waste, offer food education and strengthen community resilience.
The co-op store is open 10 hours a week and members can also access a seed library, a produce abundance box and free workshops.
Mrs Miles and her husband Charlie Showers promoted the co-op idea, inspired by a family research trip to the US last year.
“We just got a better understanding of what kind of opportunities are available to a town the size of Beechworth,” she said.
“And then what kind of impact those systems have when a town genuinely throws its weight behind its local growers and connects through food.
“Given that every single one of us is an eater, we have the ability to have an impact on how our food system operates.”
Mr Showers, also a co-op board member, said Saturday’s open day had been the project’s first public event of that kind.
“It's just been organic growth, just been through word of mouth,” he said.
“There's a real insatiable appetite for people to want to connect more with their food. People want to know the provenance of their food, have more information about where it's come from and its growing techniques and the people who have actually grown it.”
The inaugural committee realised their ideas and goals needed to evolve gradually.
“The sustainability of the organisation is as important really as what we're doing because if we don't get that sorted out then we can't continue to do this,” Mr Showers said.
“We were so surprised at how many people joined as members in the first few months that we didn't want to keep pushing because we couldn't handle the growth.
“There's lots of co-ops that have started and fallen over not long after because the drain on volunteers is quite tough.
“But we want to push through that and make sure it's a viable social enterprise.
“We've still got a long way to go but you've got to start somewhere.”